Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Still Waters (Sandhamm Murders #1)

It's not often that my Amazon First Reads pick for the Kindle is a book that I actually finish, let alone really, really, really enjoy.  I am dancing with impatience for someone to finish translating the rest of the series.  I need this in my life.  Curse you, free books!


First off, you need to know that although this takes place in Sweden, this is not The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  It's not super edgy and it doesn't need trigger warnings.  But make no mistake: something is rotten in the Stockholm Archipelago.  We've got bodies galore here.

Oddly enough, I desperately now want to go to Sweden.  I want to see these islands.  If Vivica Sten didn't already clearly have a good thing going with these novels, she could totally write travel books. I didn't even know that Sweden had a vacation archipelago.  Sweden, why are you so awesome?  I mean, except for the Nazi thing and the no daylight in the winter thing.

On the quiet island of Sandhamn, a man walks his dog in the weak dawn light.  There, on the beach, is an object that does not belong.  Everything on Sandhamn has a place: the houses are all painted the proper and attractive Falu red.  People boat and fish and picnic together.  Mysterious and foul-smelling masses on the beach are not protocol for a Sandhamn summer.  Especially when it turns out that this isn't just a know of seaweed, but a body entangled in a fishing net, its flesh eaten away and dissolved in the sea.

The policeman heading the investigation, Thomas Andreasson, suspects foul play, but cannot immediately prove it.  The deceased, Krister Bergmann, was a bachelor, with only a cousin for family.  His job, however, working for a company that provided and stored alcoholic beverages, made him suspect.  Evidently, alcohol smuggling and black-market sales are a thing in Sweden (I mean, they could be everywhere, but I live in Wisconsin, when you can buy booze pretty much whenever you please and wherever you like), so it's possible that Krister was killed by some sort of Baltic Sea mafia for not holding up his end of the deal.  But it could all be speculation, right?

Until his cousin, Kikki, shows up dead on Sandhamn as well, even though she lives and works as a croupier in Stockholm.  Her body is battered, but there no evidence of a killing blow.  Toxicology reports that Kikki had ingested rat poison.

This stumps the police.  Who kills with rat poison anymore, anyway?  Wouldn't the person notice if they were drinking or eating rat poison?  Who beat Kikki to death?

But this is a murder mystery that's rather light on the investigation aspect.  Instead, Sten focuses mostly on the Linde family, who has a summer house on Sandhamm and vacations there every year.  Nora, a lawyer, care for the two young boys while her husband, Henrik, ditches them to race yachts and do stuck-up stuff.  She's expected to cook, clean, care for the kids, and be the perfect wife.  But Nora is smart and opinionated and she's been offered a promotion that would free her from the tyranny of her idiotic man-child boss.  She's also Thomas' best friend and has been there for him through the tragic loss of his infant daughter and subsequent divorce.  I shipped them--I cannot deny it--but I like how Sten handled the dysfunctional relationships.

Sten paced her novel extremely well, and I really enjoyed the ending after thinking about it.  It's not a typical ending, but it is a believable, realistic one.

Extremely enjoyable.  I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.


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